The Afghan Whigs: Do to the Beast
Greg Dulli, John Curley, and some other guys they’re calling the Afghan Whigs channel the rock, soul, and dark undertones of the band’s classic work on an excellent quasi-reunion album
Also reviewed the Afghan Whigs’ reunion album, which I liked about as much as Spin and Pitchfork, but considerably more than AV Club and AllMusic. Quibble about its departures from the rest of the Whigs’ catalog if you must, but it’s at least as good as the best Twilight Singers albums (probably better, in fact), which is certainly more than I’d expected from a band that’s basically, well, the Twilight Singers with a bonus Whig and some guest stars.
The Both: The Both
Aimee Mann and Ted Leo are a perfect pairing on their new band’s immensely likeable debut.
This has been a very sad, very challenging week for reasons I won’t go into here, but this album’s been a help. I submitted this review (and another I’ll link in a moment) before the lousy stuff went down.
"Speaking to Library Journal, IMLS director Susan Hildreth was less surprised than her ALA colleagues, pointing out that this is the third consecutive GOP budget to come out of the House of Representatives that proposed the elimination of IMLS. While she said that the debate over federal funding for libraries is one she expects to continue in Congress, she defended the grants her agency doles out—many of which are matched by state funds—as valuable investments in communities across the country. IMLS grants to states support programs from aggregated buying of electronic resources for libraries throughout state systems to braille services for visually impaired patrons, while other grant programs drive technological innovation and leadership training. “I would focus on the fact that the investments being made create best practices and new service models across the country,” Hilderth told LJ. “It’s a small investment for a big payoff.” Representative Ryan’s office did not respond to a request for comment."
"The problem with so many books about Nirvana is that they all more or less tell the same story, even if they differ over nuance and minutia. Cobain did spark a revolution in music and popular culture; he did become a figurehead to a generation coming into its own at a time when it didn’t have much to come into; he did flame out personally, if not creatively. That story is now becoming as threadbare as one of Cobain’s cardigans. What we need from subsequent Nirvana-related titles is a new, younger voice. If there’s a future for Cobain publishing, it’s in the hands of millennials who never knew the band in the present tense but have inherited its legacy. Does Cobain speak to anyone under 30? If so, what does he say?"
Twenty years after Kurt Cobain’s death, there are a rash of new books chronicling the singer’s life and times—but do they add any insight to his legacy? Stephen Deusner takes on that question and more on The Pitch. (via pitchfork)
Not to discount the talents and originality of millennials (and maybe you can chalk this up to a lack in vision on my part), but I can’t imagine anyone of any generation coming up with new, interesting things to say about Cobain. The quote from Deusner could have ended after the word “cardigans.”
The final straw for me in this latest anniversary of something Cobain- or Nirvana or Nevermind-related may have been last week’s Entertainment Weekly story (it tickles me to pivot from Pitchfork to EW) that tried to extract from friends and admirers what they thought Cobain would be doing now. And, as usual, few got past the idea that Nirvana Unplugged pointed The Way to What Would Have Been, contemplative and acoustic Kurt. One problem is that this doesn’t address the question at all, since that next move itself would now be almost 20 years old, 15 years longer than Cobain’s actual career lasted. But another problem is that the question assumes initial impact = longstanding creativity and vitality. Couldn’t Nirvana just be the third band on this year’s Soundgarden/NIN oldies tour, still best revered for albums released two decades ago? EW’s playlist of artists he might have sounded like is unduly generous, as if Cobain’s acoustic turn would have imbued him with a technique and melodic sensibility remotely like Eliott Smith’s or facility with baroque pop arrangements like Summerteeth-era Wilco. And does anyone actually buy the idea that he would have gone outsider artist, collaborating with Daniel Johnston or doing neo-Beefheart junkyard blues? I mean, genuinely buy it? This is the guy whose next move (according to Michael Stipe) was an Automatic for the People-inspired acoustic album with strings. That doesn’t scream “anti-commercial.”
Based on Cobain’s recorded output, he’s not that compelling a figure to speculate on from the standpoint of style, and it’s a quirk of fame that we insist on periodically doing so. He may have covered Bowie, but going by the limited breadth of his material from Bleach to Nevermind to In Utero to Unplugged, he was more Neil Young. Eighties output aside, you could fairly accurately predict what Neil Young sounds like now based on what he sounded like in 1975. Scarcely anyone speculates on what kind of music Mark Sandman or Stevie Ray Vaughan would be making in 2014 not just because their fame pales in comparison to Cobain’s but because anyone who’s listened to their albums pretty much knows what those guys would have sounded like in 2014. With just a little imagination, you can do the same for Cobain. And if you think it sounds a whole lot different than his other stuff, stop, because you’ve imagined too much.
The most important .gif
If those hills were alive, they ain’t now…
omfg this is so perfect
This. Might be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.
Found this last night. Showed it to husband, who sat frozen with delight for about 30 seconds. So must reblog.
"You don’t solve a problem like Maria. She solves you."
Dave Grohl, Billy Corgan, Butch Vig Featured in Smart Studios Documentary, Watch Trailer
Not just a cool project, but a cool Madison-based project, and not just a cool Madison-based project, but a cool Madison-based project directed by Wendy Schneider, who recorded my old band’s album back in … oh, jesus … 2001 (although not at Smart, but in her own studio).
And, oddly, I just now found out where Smart used to be, since we moved from Milwaukee to Madison well after it had closed in 2010. I go past that place all the time. It’s way smaller than I’d have thought! Anyway, here’s the Kickstarter page. Hope she gets the funding she needs.
addendum to that OC Weekly post, or: How Your Hastily Rejiggered Viral Play Is Made
Earlier this morning I posted a link to an OC Weekly blog post by Gustavo Arrelano about an un-fact-checked Buzzfeed listicle on Mexican food that isn’t really Mexican (but actually is really Mexican) If you’d clicked through then, you’d have read the article pretty quickly: one page, one photo, paragraphs in minimally broken order, all those readability concerns that products like Amazon’s Kindle hire entire teams of engineers to perfect but that make you sound like a Luddite (or unemployable) if you bring up for online news.
Since then, the piece has evidently gotten a social media or cross-network push (OC Weekly, like its sister paper LA Weekly, is owned by Voice Media Group) and picked up traffic to match. Presumably the original format seemed too slight or un-viral for this, so at the same time, it acquired:
- A second page. The break’s right after the third graf. This means that page two consists of two paragraphs.
- Inline links to pieces like “15 Signs You Grew Up Eating Tex-Mex Food” and “15 Signs You Grew Up Eating Mexican Food In Southern California.” This speaks for itself, I think. (It’s a curious effect to have them side-by-side like that, though — it’d be like Buzzfeed throwing up a site map with all their “X Signs You Went To Y College” lists. Haha, remember site maps? 15 Signs You Remember Web 1.0?)
- An assortment of inline images of dubious-to-mishandled value, as follows:
- An image of the Tapatío logo, presumably the one from Wikipedia. There is zero value added by inserting a Tapatío logo, even if it didn’t demonstrate “just use Wikipedia!” in action. It isn’t even on the same page that mentions Tapatío! (This one particularly bugs me as a [sometime] designer, because the image they chose is a JPEG and thus not transparent — it’s even got the “white_bg” in the URL — and OC Weekly's text background isn't white. It's like taking that “sort the colors in order from green to pink” test with one shade out of place and rrrrrgh.)
- A photo of nachos, from LA’s El Cholo. (Cropped from a Yelp user, if the copyright battle’s one you want to fight. Yelp’s TOS means the photographer already signed over image rights, if they cared, but I don’t know that Yelp likes outside publications using content they put that clause in to obtain.) What’s weird about this one is that whoever did these edits was obviously aiming for a local angle — like the original photo, of taquitos at Cielito Lindo — but leaves out the identifying info in favor of: “Nachos: Invented by a Mexican, in Mexico, using Mexican food products. Mexican”
- A photo of Mariano Martinez, the inventor of the World’s First Frozen Margarita Machine. (Initially I was skeptical based on the moat of marketorial surrounding the invention of the World’s First Frozen Margarita Machine, but it checks out, at least well enough for the Smithsonian.) This is interesting! But as included it’s confusing. The World’s First Frozen Margarita Machine was invented in the 1970s, by a Mexican-American — that’d be a useful kicker in the copy, perhaps, or as a photo with a proper caption written in organically and not a contextless, quick Buzzfeed snark.
Incidentally, the piece also lost:
- The link to the original Buzzfeed piece, which is nowhere to be found. (At first I thought maybe they just copied and pasted the article text without markup, but the link to the author’s book remains.) Your call whether this is cynical or purposeful, or overall good or bad, but either way it’s gone.
And the piece didn’t get:
- Proofread. I mean, if you’re going in and editing anyway…. (Normally I wouldn’t bring this up, because these are just mundane typos that everyone makes, except that one of the commenters did. Quick, someone tell Abraham Hyatt!)
In other words: A succinct quick hit by a subject-matter expert has been turned into a bloated pageview trap that does the same things it’s criticizing — and that’s causing its readers to doubt the writer’s expertise. It’s one example out of countless, and I feel sort of crappy singling this out because almost everyone does it. But it seemed worth mention. So much of the online writing economy is designed to undermine writers.
Only seems appropriate to reblog Katherine’s addendum to that last post, as well. I didn’t read the linked article until it had been reformatted as explained above - it had already been unnecessarily divided into two pages and bestrewn with awkward inline links, but I think the link to the Buzzfeed article was still there by the time I got to it.
Despite all the money spent on hiring up, despite the spinoffs into “longform journalism” (what us at the OC Weekly have called “reporting” since 1995), politics and an investigative unit, the sentient world still thinks of Buzzfeed as an outlet for 20-some-year-old writers and readers to feel like they’ve accomplished something by investing the least amount of effort. And nowhere is this more evident than in a recent Buzzfeed listicle called “13 Dishes That Aren’t Actually Mexican.”
This article is Buzzfeed’s journalism reduced to one embarrassment of a combo plate: do the least research possible. When doing research, rely on third-hand sources like Wikipedia. When using second-hand-sources, rely on whatever Google tells you. And avoid first-hand source at all costs because, you know, that actually takes work.
For instance, take their entry for margaritas, which they claim were invented in Texas in the 1960s. Their source for this? A Wikipedia article…that also cites an Esquire recipe from the 1950s. And the listicle just goes downhill from there. Fajitas are pegged to 1930s Texas…even though the first documented use of the term only goes back to the 1970s. Buzzfeed claims El Cholo Cafe in Los Angeles “served the first restaurant-style burrito in the 1930s”…even though the first El Cholo menus to feature burritos only date to the 1970s and the earliest documented burritos in the U.S. only date to the 1950s. Hard-shell tacos are dated to a 1914 recipe…even though the Los Angeles Times was making references to tacos in Mexico City during the 1890s—and last we checked Mexico City was Mexican. And while they correctly pegged Tapatío’s birthplace in Maywood, California, they conveniently left out that is creator, Jose-Luis Saavedra is—you guessed it!—Mexican.